Felix unable to get out of first in tough outing
Right-hander physically OK following eight-run start in Houston
HOUSTON -- Felix Hernandez tied the shortest outing of his 11-year career on Friday as the Astros knocked the Mariners ace out with eight runs in just a third of an inning in a stunning start to a three-game series at Minute Maid Park. But Hernandez said he was physically fine after Seattle's 10-0 loss.
"Yeah, I felt way better than my last two starts," Hernandez insisted.
So what went wrong for the King in a game where he was shooting to become the first 10-game winner in the Majors this season?
"I don't know," Hernandez said. "I don't know what happened. To be honest, I don't really know."
Hernandez gave up five hits -- including a three-run homer to Luis Valbuena and a two-run shot by Jason Castro -- and walked two before manager Lloyd McClendon pulled him after 31 pitches.
"There was nothing to say," McClendon said of that decision. "Listen, he's human. He had a tough night. I was not going to stress him anymore. He was at 31 pitches with one out, it just made no sense [to leave him in longer]."
Hernandez also pitched just one-third of an inning in a game on April 18, 2007, against the Twins, but was removed that game because of tightness in his elbow after allowing three runs on two hits and two walks as a 21-year-old.
There was no injury this time, nor was there any argument from Hernandez. He paced around the mound in anger at himself when McClendon came out, but didn't question the decision.
"I just gave him the ball," Hernandez said. "It's my fault. I killed the bullpen today. It's on me. This is my worst start of my career."
Hernandez fell to 9-3 as his ERA rose from 2.51 to 3.38. He had allowed just seven runs in his first five road games this year, but saw that mark bettered by the Astros in one-third of an inning.
Seattle's defense didn't help out as a routine grounder to short by leadoff hitter Jose Altuve turned into an infield single when Willie Bloomquist didn't get the throw to first in time. Hernandez then walked Preston Tucker before George Springer blooped a ball down the right-field line that turned into an RBI double when right fielder Mark Trumbo threw behind him to first base.
Evan Gattis followed with a hard shot back to Hernandez, but he threw wide of catcher Mike Zunino on a rushed toss to the plate as two runs scored. Hernandez then walked Colby Rasmus and struck out rookie Carlos Correa before Valbuena hit his 13th homer of the year and Castro followed with his two-run shot to end Hernandez's night.
The Astros came into the game on a seven-game losing streak, while Hernandez was 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in his five road starts.
It's not as if Hernandez has had troubles in Houston before. He was 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 17 innings in three previous starts at Minute Maid since the Astros joined the AL West in 2013 and he hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in six starts anywhere against Houston during that span.
The Mariners' ace was off to the best start of his career through May, going 8-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his first 10 outings. He suffered control issues in a June 1 loss to the Yankees when he gave up seven runs on six hits and five walks over 4 2/3 innings, but bounced back in his last start to hold the Rays to two hits and one run over seven innings in a 2-1 win.
Hernandez is lined up to face Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in his next start on Wednesday when Seattle hosts the defending World Series champs to open an eight-game homestand.
"I just have to turn the page," Hernandez said. "Forget about this one and get ready for five days."